Sustainability at Bellarmine

Students in hard hats

In the inclusive spirit of Thomas Merton, our core values of social responsibility and stewardship at Bellarmine call us to honor the interconnectedness of life and the solidarity of the human spirit.

Environmental Social Responsibility and Stewardship

Energy Use

Our electric vehicle charging station near Miles Hall can accommodate two vehicles at a time, and our Facilities staff utilize electric-powered gator vehicles. Our geothermal system consists of 88 wells, each 500 feet deep each, that serve the George G. Brown Center. Our LED lighting on the Quad provides 3.5x the light of the replaced system at one-third of the electricity. Our Energy Management System enables facilities to reduce energy use based on building and room occupancy. In some locations, we utilize off-grid infrastructure, such as a self-charging automatic door and a solar- and wind-powered emergency phone station. Bicycles can be rented from our bicycle library located near the SURF Center.

Water Use

The six, 500-gallon tanks in our rainwater reclamation system in the George G. Brown Center supply all of the water to the dual-flush toilets in the building, diverting excess stormwater from waterways. Our water-bottle filling stations located throughout campus reduce single-use plastics.

Our rain garden of native plants in front of Allen Hall retains storm water, reduces fertilizers from getting into our waterways, and provides habitat for pollinators. Read more about our rain garden here.


The Bellarmine Farm behind Allen Hall operated in collaboration between Facilities and the Environmental Studies Department is a demonstration area for agricultural practices including raised beds, cold frames, permaculture, composting, traditional gardening, and an orchard. The Farm also provides an outdoor classroom space. Our Campus Greenhouse is operated by the Biology Department in service of the Plant Diversity course and student and faculty research.

Students in lawn chairs at the Bellarmine Farm

We have a robust recycling program on campus with prevalent recycling and landfill bins. We support the use of green cleaning practices through a green product requirement with our custodial contractor. Our dining services use tray-less dining to reduce water and food waste, local sourcing of dairy products and other local food distributors as part of the Better Tomorrow Plan, composting of food waste, and 100% recycled-content napkins.

Tree Canopy

Tree Canopy USA logoThe urban heat island effect is of concern in Louisville, and trees are one of the best ways to combat the heat island effect. Bellarmine’s campus showcases beautiful native trees that provide shade and cooling. Bellarmine is a certified member of the Arbor Day Foundation’s Tree Campus program. We also have a Campus Tree Inventory.


Students in stream

Bellarmine offers a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Science, a Bachelor of Arts degree in Environmental Justice and Sustainability, and a minor in Environmental Studies. The Department of Environmental Studies offers courses ranging from general education natural science courses in Environmental Science to technical skill-building in our Geographic Information Systems and Sustainable Development courses to engagement with social justice issues in our Environmental Justice course. Our Paleontology classes help students understand the impacts of past climate changes on the Earth, and our Aquatic Ecosystems classes teach effects of pollution on our aquatic resources. Multiple other departments also offer courses related to the environment and sustainability, such as Anthropology of Food; Theology, Nature, and Environmental Responsibility; and Global Climate: It’s Up to Us. Students majoring in one of the environmental majors participate in an internship related to their career goals and aspirations, as well. 


Students standing in a forested area at Bellarmine

The Terra Learning Community (TLC) focuses on the theme “Sustainability: From Words to Action.” The community is open to students of any major and is designed for students that have a strong interest in the issues of sustainability. The students in the TLC will support each other in the courses they take, in environmentally conscious living, civic engagement benefiting the greater community and activities that align with the theme of TLC, such as a visit to a farm-to-table restaurant, projects in the Bellarmine garden, and outdoor activities.

Registered student organizations related to sustainability and environmental issues provide opportunities for students to get involved. Some examples are the Green Knights, Food Advocacy Network, and the Vegan and Vegetarian Outreach clubs. Students can also get involved in the Student Government Association’s Environmental Committee and the campus-wide Sustainability Committee.

Each year, Bellarmine hosts various campus environmental programming events around the Feast of St. Frances, Earth Day, and Arbor Day, and we host two speakers each year in our Sustainability Series.  

Community Engagement

Student taking water samples from stream

Various classes and groups on campus engage with the greater Louisville community in meaningful ways to help the environment, resulting in recognition as a Green Spirit Partner Community member through Kentucky Interfaith Power & Light in 2020 and 2021. Faculty and students in the Department of Environmental Studies support wetland restoration research at the Passionist Earth & Spirit Center. Students also work with Olmsted Parks Conservancy to remove invasive species from campus and local parks. Students in Environmental Science courses participate in citizen science data collection with Salt River Watershed Watch to help with data-informed watershed management.

During the summer, Bellarmine offers a summer camp for kids though Camp Valor called: “A Week in the Life of an Environmental Scientist.”